Category Archives: The Playgrounds of Flickrville

Happy Birthday PlayGroundology

Noah-David’s rendition of our local playground – Halifax, Canada

Happy 1st birthday PlayGroundology!

This joyful sweep of lines and colours with blue skies sailing is just the perfect scene to represent the fun and adventure I’m experiencing with PlayGroundology. Since the first post in January 2010, I am continuously surprised by people’s generosity, by the richness, variation and sometimes audacity in playground design and by children’s imaginative spontaneity.

Over the course of the year, I’ve had the chance to speak or correspond with many fine people in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australasia. Many of them are advocates for play, some are aficionados and others activists. All have provided their insights – words, memories, photos. Their stories and images are the heartbeat of this small corner of the playground universe. Thanks to all of you.

Thanks also to the readers, the tweeters, the commenters, the bloggers, tumblrs, flickrites and facebookers. I appreciate your sharing of links and content, getting this blog in front of an expanding audience. We’re growing modestly with just over 16,000 views in the first year. That’s more than enough to keep me getting up at crazy hours of the morning to do a little research and writing.

In case you haven’t read them already, here are some of the more popular posts from the first year.


Screen shots of some of the more popular posts – click here or on the image above.

Manhattan’s Bronze Guy
Anthropomorphic architecture installation – Playground – by sculptor Tom Otterness and Playgroundology’s first post.

Go Tell it on the Mountain – Montréal’s Salamander Playground
Montréal’s Salamander Playground incorporates new forms and equipment in a design by Cardinal Hardy Architects. Located in the city’s Mount Royal Park, it opened in June 2009 and is becoming a desination playscape within the city.

Playground Access for All Abilities
Research study, after research study has proven that children need to play. Children need to play because it makes them healthier and less likely to become obese. Children need to play because it makes them more focused in school. Children need to play because it teaches them social skills that are essential to becoming adept adults. Although play has been decreasing from our landscape, many children are still out there playing on playgrounds.

The Playgrounds of Flickrville
The web is wide and deep – an ever expanding repository of sound, text and light. We’re in a golden age of information sharing. On the images side of the equation, it’s a global photorush and Flickr is the motherlode. With 4 billion images and counting, this is a visual feast fit for a gourmet. It is now established as one of the primary digital meeting places for people who want to share photos and their interest in specific subject matter.

Popular Mechanics on the Playground Beat
I remember Popular Mechanics as a boy growing up in the 1960s. One of the trademarks was a small font size. They also had wondrous plans, superb graphics and fine photos. Until I stumbled across an old issue, I had never considered it as a resource for playground research. At the turn of the last century, Popular Mechanics had started chronicling the playground world in the United States. Who knew?

In the year ahead, PlayGroundology will be featuring artists, designers, thinkers, great playground cities, playground organizations and of course more innovative playgrounds, playscapes and playspaces. If you have a story idea for us to go after, or a guest post you’d like to contribute, contact us at – playgroundolgy@gmail.com.

It’s been a fine first year – bit of a magic bus ride. I hope you’ll join us for the rest of the trip.

All materials, unless otherwise attributed or credited, copyright ⓒ 2010 Alex Smith.

If you’re a non-profit or not-for-profit group, feel free to hyperlink, excerpt, or reproduce the contents of this post. Please reference PlayGroundology. For commercial reproduction of this content, please consult the editor.

The Playgrounds of Flickrville

The web is wide and deep – an ever expanding repository of sound, text and light. We’re in a golden age of information sharing. On the images side of the equation, it’s a global photorush and Flickr is the motherlode. With 4 billion images and counting, this is a visual feast fit for a gourmet. It is now established as one of the primary digital meeting places for people who want to share photos and their interest in specific subject matter.

There are Flickr enthusiasts posting photos of rockets, urban gardens, landscapes, volcanoes, disasters, cars and yes, frogs. A coterie of devotees is staking out the Flickrville playground claim in the world’s largest photo gallery. Some are casual contributors simply using ‘playground’ as a tag. Others are more methodical and selective documenting, for example, the ever dwindling stock of ‘old’ playground equipment.

The Mayor of Neato Coolville is in the latter category. He has a soft spot for playgrounds. In fact, playgrounds are partially responsible for the incorporation of his on line municipality.

In the late 90s, my wife and I went back to my elementary school to take photos of the playground. It was torn down, gone. We had just driven past the previous week and it had still been there. I was distraught. The kindergarten playground was still there so we took some photos of that. It was later torn down too.

All these playgrounds are just disappearing. It’s like someone sneaks in overnight and takes them all down and removes them to somewhere, who knows where. It just opened up something in me to start taking photos of old things that were disappearing – playgrounds, signs, buildings, old movie theatres.

Mayor of Neato Coolville, aka Todd Franklin

A search for ‘playgrounds’ on everyone’s uploads returns nearly half a million hits. That’s fine for a time-is-no-object casual meander that allows poking about in a random, stumbly kind of way. Make no mistake there are wonderful compositions in this broad body of work. The riches can be refined by adding other key words to ‘playgrounds’ in the search box. The Playground Beat Gallery I curated is a small representative sample of arresting images found using the search function.

Flickr’s ‘group pools’ are an excellent entry point into zeroing in more quickly on images and photographers with a playground focus. Their content ranges from the general catch all to the somewhat esoteric.

Playgrounds Group Pool – 1,098 members, 5,124 items

This Group Pool is Flickr’s primary organized/categorized home for all stuff playground. A great place to dip your toes in.

Old Playground Furniture Group Pool – 341 members, 1,787 items

Browsing through this Group Pool you can pick up a serious case of equipment envy particularly if you’re a member of Generation X or Y. As a Boomer, I’m looking a lot of this equipment and wondering where it was when I was in the midst of my bone rattling playground days. Check the Old Playground Furniture Gallery for some representative photos.

Playground Animals Group Pool- 111 members, 650 items

Ducks, dolphins, frogs, toucans, spiders, caterpillars and even an elephant and a giraffe – it’s a full cast here in this playground menagerie. There is a large spring rider contingent, as well as roundabouts/merry go rounds, climbers, swings, slides. This pool is the Noah’s Ark of Flickrville playground collections.

Lonesome Spring Rocker Animals Group Pool – 60 members, 209 items

Tomayto – tomahto, spring rocker – spring rider. This is a smaller menagerie all spring mounted and ready to ride.

DLM (Dispositivi Ludici a Molla) Group Pool – 65 members, 534 items

DLM is the Italian equivalent of spring rockers. This Group Pool’s photos are primarily in European locations though there is some cross-over with the Lonesome Spring Rocker Animal Pool which features more North American content.

Flickr’s building block for individual photographers is the ‘set’. From my limited use of the platform, there doesn’t seem to be any methodical way to search for sets, or for ‘collections’ – sets of sets. Following are few sets that caught my interest.

Neato Coolville Municipal Playground Set – 70 photos

Mayor Todd is passionate about old playscapes. The school playgrounds in his hometown of Osage Beach, Missouri hold a lot of great, and sometimes scary, memories. “In kindergarden we all used to sit on the merry-go-round and the teacher would spin us round and round and naturally I end up falling off. So I roll underneath and I just see all these legs and feet going round and round and I can’t get up. I’m trapped and I’m screaming for the teacher to get me up, get me up. Finally she put a stop to it. I think she had a hard time hearing all my screams through the other kids’ laughter…” As a self-described accidental archivist, Mayor Todd is always on the lookout for equipment to preserve for the photographic record.

Ohio – Old Playgrounds Set – 727 photos

Scottamus’ flickr offerings are shot exclusively in Ohio. There is a great variety of material ranging from the old playgrounds to signs, abandoned schools, roadside oddities, etc. In terms of the number of images in his photostream, playgrounds appear to take the day.

Playgrounds Set – 51 photos

Amorphity comments on his Playgrounds Set shot primarily in Singapore, “I’ve always believed that supermarkets tell more about a culture than museums – looking through my image archive I am slowly thinking that the same could be true about playgrounds …” There is a lot on offer in Amorphity’s photostream particularly if you are interested in architecture.

Vintage Miracle Equipment Company Ads Set – 49 images

Nels P. Olsen has put together a retrospective of catalogue fare from the Miracle Equipment Company, from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s that includes their Space Ship and Astro City. For more on Miracle click through to Tall George’s story on the Astro City Rocket Slide. Nels has also contributed numerous photos to the Old Playground Furniture Group Pool.

HDR Playgrounds Set – 44 photos

Student photographer Josh Corrie added these images shot in England last month. The high dynamic range imaging is quite arresting in tandem with the with the angles and perspectives Josh has used.

A special thanks to Todd Franklin, Mayor of Neato Coolville, for his assistance with this post. Thanks also to Amorphity and Scottamus for allowing PlayGroundology to post their photos. Lastly, a broader thanks to all those people sharing their playground photos on Flickr and other platforms.

In the course of writing this post, I came across a couple of new-to-me resources that may be of interest to more recent Flickr photo miners like myself.

flickriver

    • is an excellent tool for viewing photos in a continuous stream. This web-based viewer for Flickr searches by photos, groups, users, tags and places.

 

Flickr Hive Mind is a search engine as well as an experiment in the power of Folksonomies. All thumbnail images come directly from Flickr, none are stored on Flickr Hive Mind.

The final word goes to Todd Franklin, Mayor of Neato Coolville.

“What’s cool about the playground when you’re a kid is all the crazy stories. We talked about Gene Simmons of KISS having a cow’s tongue sewn onto his own – silly rumours. For kids, the playground was equivalent to the adults’ water cooler at work.” Give me a playground any day…

Note – the number of members and photos referenced in association with Group Pools and Sets was accurate on the day of publishing. These numbers are constantly in flux.

Photo credits in order of appearance.

1. Neato Coolville

2. Scottamus

3. Scottamus

4. Neato Coolville

5. Amorphity

6. Neato Coolville

All materials, unless otherwise attributed or credited, copyright ⓒ 2010 Alex Smith.

If you’re a non-profit or not-for-profit group, feel free to hyperlink, excerpt, or reproduce the contents of this post. Please reference PlayGroundology. For commercial reproduction of this content, please consult the editor.